THEC awards Southwest and TCAT-Memphis $145K Veteran Reconnect grant


The Tennessee Higher Education Commission (THEC) awarded Southwest’s Veterans Affairs and the Tennessee College of Applied Technology at Memphis (TCAT-Memphis), a Veteran Reconnect Program grant of $145,696 this past fall to help veterans and service members earn college credentials and workforce training.  The two-year grant, which begins this month, was approved by the Tennessee General Assembly as part of a $1 million distribution to nine colleges, community colleges, TCAT’s and universities across the state.

According to the US Census Bureau, there are nearly 170,000 veterans in Tennessee with no college credit and another 157,000 with some college credit or an associate degree. More than 52,000 veterans live in Shelby County, alone, with another 3,000 living in nearby Fayette County.

Southwest Dual Enrollment and Prior Learning Assessment Academic Coordinator Mike Stephens and TCAT-Memphis Coordinator of Workforce Development and Campus Operations Brad Gentry co-direct the grant. They say the overall goal is to ease the transition from military life to higher education and the civilian workforce.  “I know the challenges veterans face when coming back to college,” said Stephens, a Vietnam avionics technician who used his veteran’s benefits to continue his education at State Technical Institute. “This grant will allow more faculty and staff the opportunity to connect to veterans, address their needs and assess their military training and experience toward college credit.”

Additional program goals include identifying best practices that are academically successful, enhancing communications for external outreach and internal inclusion, and train the trainer models for faculty and staff so they can be points of reference within their own departments.

Since funding began in 2015, THEC’s Veteran Reconnect Grants have supported a variety of projects, including hiring veteran resource officers and establishing professional development programs and campus veteran service centers.

2019 Veteran Reconnect Grant Recipients:

  • Austin Peay State University
  • Dyersburg State Community College
  • Lipscomb University
  • Middle Tennessee State University
  • Southwest Tennessee Community College and Tennessee College of Applied Technology - Memphis (Collaborative Partnership)
  • Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology at Harriman, Jacksboro, Oneida/Huntsville and Knoxville (Collaborative Partnership)
  • Tusculum University
  • University of Tennessee at Chattanooga
  • University of Tennessee at Martin